21 September 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife.



3D movies don’t really work well for me. I’m getting tired of things being shot at my face.
A few issues I had while watching the movie.
1)      Where are all the janitors? In the underground headquarters of Umbrella Corporation, everything sparkling clean. Supposedly, everyone has been living underground for years. Can things look a little dilapidated? All the vehicles are neatly parked and shiny. Awesome. Wesker must have had several hundred janitors stowed away in his underground stronghold. Same goes for the field of planes which have been left in the open for months. In the world of the film, all industries are dead. Alice found no (other) survivors at all during the six month journey from Japan to Alaska to California. Who has been providing Umbrella with electricity? Food? Ammunition? Soap? Toilet Paper? New tires? 
2)       One of my biggest complaints for the movie franchise is that the character of Alice has been given magical powers via the “T-Virus”. Yes, a virus that makes people turn into zombies also gives people super powers such as making a ground shockwave with the mind. I was actually surprised when Wesker took the ability away from Alice. “Thank you for making me Human again.” Oh, if only you still were human. Alice has still shown extra ordinary abilities with her speed and strength. At one point, she was hit with a mallet into a wall (which actually broke the tiles on the wall.) She was out of commission for about a minute (so that Claire can have her action scene), but quickly sprung back into action with apparently no injury. Great job stating that you depowered her only to have her still do inhuman things. Oh yeah, since Alice was on the Chopper the entire time, why didn’t she kill Wesker the moment he started to punch in the code to destroy the Umbrella Facility? Because it serves the plot.
3)      What is Umbrella’s plan anyway? I don’t recall the specific plot for the films, but I believe the T-Virus was made as a bio-weapon. It was accidentally released at the end of the first film. The second film is about the initial spread of the virus at Raccoon City. By the third film, the virus has spread worldwide. Supposedly, they’re interested in studying Alice because they believe that her blood or genetics contain the secret to curing the whole zombie infection… or at least make them dormant. Now, they’re all about making monsters and doing extremely unethical experiments. I wonder what all the survivor security guards and janitors are thinking about all of this. I was hoping that we get to see some director in charge of some facility that isn’t PURE EVIL. Maybe they exist, but Alice killed them all. (There is a short conversation between the characters stating that the crew of the Arcadia was so disgusted at Wesker that they all fled on life rafts. I guess the guys at the prison missed this part with their night vision/heat sensing goggles. And I guess the crew decided to not take the four or so choppers with them and instead try to make it out alive on boats.)
4)      Wesker’s plan made no sense. When we see him on the chopper the first time, it was a little bit ridiculous that he was able to inject Alice so quickly without Alice being able to fire. I guess he knew she was on the chopper all along, because he was holding on to the syringe the entire time. Alright. Neat. He protected himself. I get that. So why would he leave the chopper unpiloted for a minute while he had his confrontation with Alice? I actually thought it was on auto pilot or something. Wesker is dumb. The plane crashes and Alice wakes up first because she is entirely human while Wesker is a super human.

Let’s follow this movie from Wesker’s perspective at this point:



I wake up from the burning wreckage. Dang. That chopper was brand new and sparkly. Now it is all burning and dilapidated. Well, at least I’m still alive and I’m super human.
Oh no. The T-virus isn’t bonding to my body correctly. I need to eat human flesh to stabilize myself.
Where’s Alice? I want to eat her. She is the only known human to fully bond with the virus. Eating her will allow me to become super powerful. Oh. She isn’t here? Darn. She must have woken up before me somehow. Wait a minute, I thought I was the super human here!

Where do I go now? Let’s go to one of Umbrella’s many secret base. It is a ship. It is a ship named Arcadia.

*Six months later*

There’s a plane? Someone’s flying to Arcadia? Who is it? Let’s use the magical Satellite Voice amplifier along with the Umbrella Heat signature finder. If we had this technology all along, why didn’t we use it to capture that Claire girl?
 But, Arcadia is moving south to LA for no reason. Should I tell the crew to stop and wait for Alice to land on the ship so I can eat her? Or at least head back north and send out flares or radio signals to the plane telling her to land? Let’s not.

*A couple of days later*

Oh look, Alice landed at a prison facility along with other survivors.
I most definitely want to consume her, so I’ll send some bio-monsters to go and kill her. Yes, these monsters must be deadly. I hope Alice makes it out alive.

*Another few days later.*

Gee, is that a plane that’s heading to the boat? Does everyone know how to fly a plane? Apparently. Is it Alice? No? Hm.
Wait, that’s Alice and Claire coming on a boat. Alice is coming to this room right now! Let’s talk. And not seal the room via the computer controls so anyone can sneak through at any time. Besides, I like to fight more people while my horribly mutated dogs fight other people.
Muahaha. Look at their slow bullets fly. I can move so fast. I am powerful. Now, the Redfields are out of commission.
Should I use my super speed (fast enough to dodge bullets) to knock Alice out and finally eat her? Nope.
Let’s slow motion try to eat her. Ow! There’s a knife in my brain. Good thing I can recover from that! Let’s try again. Hopefully, Alice doesn’t have another weapon that can be shot in my face. 
Darn, I guessed wrong. She did shoot it in my face. I am going to fake die. 
Muahaha I am alive again, and I’m going to eat this old man to regain my complete strength. Since I’ve proven that I am too dumb to even kill three ‘normal’ powered humans, I’m going to escape. I hope that the one chopper out of a dozen or so isn’t booby trapped by Alice’s only self destruct device. 
Bah. I am now dead. Darnit. I was so dumb and unlucky.

So what is Wesker’s goal? It is apparent that he doesn’t care about the Company Directive anymore. He just wants to become a super-being of sorts. Having a character seek out power for the sake of seeking power is pointless. With the way he does things, there will be no human left alive? What’s the point of being all powerful when you’re the only one alive?


That’s not to say I hated the film entirely. I loved seeing Wentworth Miller (who played Michael Scofield in Prison Break) trapped in a prison within a prison, trying to break out. I found it to be hilarious. The end of the film had a teaser for the next installment of the franchise. Jill Valentine is now apparently controlled by Umbrella, and they’re flying towards the Arcadia to capture some people for experiments. I’m guessing that these people are controlled by an AI like the White Queen. (People at theatres are retarded. They just have this urge to head out as soon as the credits roll. THE LIGHTS ARE NOT ON YET. IT MEANS THAT THE PRESENTATION IS NOT OVER. I love it when the scene continues and people who are on their way out turns around to watch it.)
Ultimately, is the film worth watching? I think so. Just expect that characters will do dumb things. The film isn’t worth paying full price.  It is probably better than spending time watching old episodes of Star Trek though.

03 September 2010

Going to Pax.

So long, suckers!

Girl who Leapt Through Time. 2006.


Japanese Animated Film.

Spoilers in review.

This movie is set in contemporary modern day Japan about a girl (Makato) who... leaps through time. That is, she finds out that she is able to literally jump and travel through time. Like any adolescent, Makato starts by changing minor things so that they work out better. Suddenly, she is able to have all the extra sleep that she wants. She gets perfect grades. Eventually, she uses this power to avoid some decisions in life. One of her best friends (Chiaki) wanted to ask her out on a date. Makato couldn't handlethis so she goes back in time to avoid the whole 'asking her out' part from ever happening. She uses this power to avoid facing any major changes to her life.

Anyway, it turns out that there are consequences to her time-leaps and that there's a finite amount. Blah blah blah. Saw it coming a mile away.

There's a serious flaw to this story which was very distracting to me. The way that 'time' works does not make sense at all. In the original timeline, Makato has a tempura (fire) accident during cooking class. The brakes on her bike is also broken, which eventually led to a fatal accident...which was undone by her first, accidental time-leap.
To solve the tempura problem, she asks another student to fry it first. He became the one who accidentally causes the fire. This shows that certain events 'must' happen. Later in the movie, Makato's other friend started riding a bike which lead to another fatal accident. Yeah. People need to ride their bikes more carefully.

By the last act of the film, it turns out that Makato gained her timeleaping ability because she accidentally fell a time-nut, which grants the user power over time. I'm not even kidding about this. The time-nut was originally lost by the time-traveller-Chiaki, who is desperately trying to find it. Chiaki only came to the past to see a famous painting which was destroyed in the upcoming world-wide catastrophe. Unfortunately, the painting is still being restored, so he hasn't had a chance to see it yet. And he never will have that chance because he must disappear. He can't go back to the future because he used his last time-leap to save Makato's other friend from a fatal bike accident. He disappears and Makato is a sad panda.

Later, Makato finds out that she has one time-leap left because Chiaki went back in time before she used her time leap. WHY DOES SHE STILL REMEMBER THE OTHER TIMELINE IF SHE NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO USE HER LAST TIME-LEAP? PLOT HOLE. To help Chiaki go back to the future, she time-leaps before he used his last time-leap so that he still has one more to go to the future.

Some sappiness occurs where the girl and the guy reveals that they love each other, etc..

And then the most retarded thing happens.

Chiaki still goes home, but he says that he'll wait for her in the future.

Makato is alright with this, and she replies that she'll be 'running towards it'.

What does Chiaki mean by he'll wait for her? It'll only appear to be a second to him when he travels. Makato will be much, much older in the future.

Also, Makato only finds out in this film that she kinda loves Chiaki. Now she'll remain single her entire life for an unspecified point in the future when they'll meat? This shit is retarded.


22 July 2010

Inception (no spoilers)

Saw it Tuesday.
Dreams are uniquely human, as far as we know. We all experience dreams at one point in our lives. Dreams can be a way for the subconscious to reveal desires or yearnings. They might show stresses or fears.
(I once had a dream where I was trying to convince the person I was talking to that he/she was dreaming, and that I was a figment of their imagination. I knew that I was real though. I was just being a dick. And then I woke up. What the heck does this say about me?)

I think that a lot of people would want to explore their dreams if they could, which is why this film resonates with so many people.

There are a lot of concepts and layers within this movie and I'm sure that there will be thousands of articles and essays devoted to this film.
I think its nice to look at an artwork to try and derive meaning. Some people say that the movie is a metaphor for the interaction between film making and the audience. Various people in the film would represent different roles for the movie making process. Archetects, writers, chemists, directors, financiers. Neato. Yeah, I guess you can look at it that way, but is that what Nolan intended, or is it just a coincidence?

Inception was enjoyable for what it is. The story is straightforward for me. It was quite easy to understand. Yeah, you will have to simply go along with certain ideas with the film, but they are really minor points.

That being said, this film is incredibly overhyped. The ending is a huge cop-out. Yeah, I understand that the final scene is like an "Inception" for the viewer. You can say that the point is to make you question what you just watched, but I feel that a good film doesn't need to rely on such a gimmick. I recommend everyone go watch the movie, just don't expect any great twists or deep psychological answers which will blow your mind. It sure didn't blow mine.

With regards to the film's ending question... does it really matter if the spinner top fell? No. Whether real or not, you are only watching a film (which isn't real.)


07 July 2010

The Last Airbender Review.

I was really hesitant about watching the film. On one hand, there were a lot of people who seem to hate the movie. On the other is that Avatar was one of the few animu that I enjoy. On the third mutant hand is that if the movie was truly terrible, I don't want to contribute to its success.

Well, after the first weekend box office results, I was content to know that the paltry sum I paid won't make this film a financial success.

I want to comment that I watched it on Tuesday. Cineplex apparently now has a special deal where for the same price as normal, you also get a regular popcorn and a regular drink. Neato. I might watch all of my films on tuesdays now. When I got into the theatre 10 minutes before the preview started, I walked into an empty room. All alone. By the time that the movie started, there were less than ten people. Flop.

The Last Airbender is by no means a great film. I'm not sure if it is a good film either.It definitely isn't the theatrical disaster that some people are calling it. This is definitely not Battlefield Earth of the decade.
So, I have seen all three seasons of Avatar, so I understand the story behind the movie. I don't know for sure if a non-fan can properly follow the story or understand its significance.

Bad

1) Tone
Avatar is supposed to be for kids to enjoy. The animu had a lot of silliness to many of the scenes. I can recall only two instances in the movie which had the light hearted scenes of the show, and they both involve Katara accidentally splashing Sokka with her faulty waterbending.

While the story of The Last Airbender has a lot of serious elements, the humour in the show helped create more rounded characters. It showed that despite only being kids, they were fated to do such incredible things. I don't think Aang smiled or laughed once in the film. He definitely doesn't have the same playfulness as the series.

2) Dialogue / Treating people like Full Retards.

“Do you have a spiritual place I can meditate?” “Yes, we have a very spiritual place.” 

When Aang goes to the very spiritual place to meditate, he first talks about how the record for the longest meditation was four days, and that it took a lot of concentration.


“We need to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs”
The dialogue in the movie is bad. I was cringing about once every minute. I can't really blame the actors for being shit when they are forced to work with this type of material. Then, each of the characters announced to everyone else what they were going to do in the scene. Yue and Sokka both says that they were going to leave the room. And they do. Katara then announces that she is going to stay. And she does. Its as if the audience is incapable of seeing what the characters are actually doing, so the writer decides that it is necessary for the characters to say exactly what they are going to do.

AND THEN Katara starts to talk with Aang, who just started to meditate.
"Aang, can you hear me? It's Katara."
Shut up, Katara, HE'S TRYING TO MEDITATE. YOU ARE SO STUPID.


Oh, and Zhao / Fire Lord Ozai's various conversation about Zhao going into a lost temple and finding a scroll which will lead them to victory. They had to constantly bring it up because M Night doesn't believe that the audience has the capacity to understand what is going on. If we don't get to see Zhao getting the scrolls which contained this awesome secret, we don't really need to hear about him doing it five times. They could have excised all of those scenes and just had Zhao show up at the end.


3) Pacing:  Trying to fit 440 minutes of content into 100 minutes.
Obviously, the movie will not be a direct translation simply because of the time contraints.
 I understand that not every single line of dialogue or every single episode can be filmed. There's just a problem when Aang, Kitara, and Sokka arrives at the Southern Air Temple, and they didn't know each other's names.

Another example of pacing issue is that the 'romantic' relationship between Princess Yue and Sokka was reduced to one of the many narration dialogues. That's fine, I guess, except that they placed such a great deal of time later on their emotional goodbyes. If time was not spent developing the relationship, then time shouldn't be spent on them at all.

According to casting and promotional posters,  the Kyoshi Warriors were going to play a major part with the film. Extending the film by another 20-30 minutes and incorporating more of the episode content would have definitely helped create more rounded characters.

4) Bending / Movement tracking.
I thought that they should have made the computer animation sync more with the movements of the actors. It just seems kinda silly for the actors to swing their arms a couple rotations in front of them just to have the water animation remain the same.

The fire in the fire bending is far too slow. It feels like a really slow fireball that is heading in a direction. I did not like this.

There were scenes lasting about 30 seconds when Aang and Katara are practicing water-bending by doing Tai Chi. Practice is good, except that the movements between the two characters aren't even consistant. One of them would hold their hands together, while the other would have them apart and uneven. The director should have told them to do it again.


What I did like:
Wonderful set/costume design. I loved the 'feel' of the world. The movie made me believe that it was possible for a city to exist like the one in the north pole. Yeah, the artists had the animu to base everything on, but I thought they did it wonderfully.

Zuko's story - I think the actor and character is very consistent with the show. He is driven with the same passion and anger of the series. The only WTF moment is after he kidnaps Aang, we see that Zuko has been having a soliloquy while staring out the window. Didn't need to see that, and its not really the appropriate time. I just wish that we had seen Iroh try and calm Zuko down some more. The Iroh/Zuko relationship is one of the best in the series.

Summary:

It feels to me that The Last Airbender could have genuinely been a good film. The set designs were there. The whole concept about the look was spot on. There were problems with dialogue, which can't easily be fixed. There is definitely a problem with some of the pacing. Hopefully there will be a director's cut that can somehow salvage this mess. Reincorporate some of the other side stories and cut around the stilted dialogue.

I really do wish to see a second and third installments, but I wouldn't want to have the same writer involved. I think he's a capable director and a good producer.

The Last Airbender was directed, produced, and written by M. Night Shyamalan

23 June 2010

!

!

12 June 2010

Day 25 – Prague’s Viet-town and Munchen

In the morning we went to the Viet town in Prague. Apparently there is a huge Vietnamese population in Prague due to a soviet communism exchange program. (Vietnam is communist, and the Czech republic was under Russian control.) Many Vietnese people stayed in the Russian Federation so there is apparently a lot of Vietnese people everywhere. Interesting stuff.

We took the train and then a bus to Viet town. According to our Viet Friend, there is supposed to be a bustling market, but it turns out that the market is more of a distributor for goods made in Vietnam. That is, the items are only sold by the dozen. Of course we had Vietnamese food. Had another beefy noodle thing.

Spent the rest of the day agonizing in the car. We were planning to drive to the bridge and castle, but that was the biggest mistake in the history of mistakes. What would have taken us 30 minutes by public transit ended up taking 2 hours by vehicle. There also simply isn’t any parking space in the touristy parts.

We arrived at Munich late in the evening, and vent immediately for the world famous (or at least German famous) Hobflaradfausdfagafalsdfagtn Bar. It is the biggest and liveliest bar in Germany. The reason for that is that it is the brewery for some of the best beer in the world. Om nom nom.

Day 24 – Berlin to Prague

I just couldn’t stay away from Asian food. Went to another Vietnamese place in the morning for lunch. Om nom nom. Beef noodles.
The drive to Prague took way too long, but it was ultimately worth it. Arrived at probably 7-8 pm. There was a restaurant right at the Hostel, which is the most impressive one I’ve seen. The food wasn’t that great, but there’s everything at this hostel, and it was cheap. Had some pizza and some Czech Goulash. We rented all 8 rooms for the 5 of us, which cost a fraction compared to other cities. Internet was free and flowing. Everything is good

Day 23 – Berlin, Wall

Five hour drive to Berlin. Arrived at approximately 3pm. It was at the autobahn that our car broke the 200km/hr barrier. I would post photos, but I don’t want to have any incriminating evidence of any sort.

The architecture of Berlin is a little bit interesting. I’m guessing because of the Berlin Wall, there were different styles on each side as time went on. The east side seems more heavily focused on the ‘red’ Moscow-ish buildings.

Just walked around most of the day. Saw a big giant bear, an inverted ‘little Paris’ section in a mall. It was here that I met a group of travelers from Hong Kong. By meet, I mean I just followed them and acted like I couldn’t understand the language. Was particularly funny when a bunch of them had trouble ordering meat at the fancy French meat place. The staff was speaking English in a French accent trying to explain to the Chinese why they’re getting charged more while in Germany.

Went to a really boring museum. Afterwards, we went to see a boring old victory celebration thingy.

The Berlin wall was interesting. Apparently it is illegal to deface or vandalize the walls, but not because of historical significance. All along the wall, there are murals and paintings with the whole hippy message of one world, everyone being prisoners, love one another, etc. I saw some that were painted in 2004. I liked some of them, but others are way too abstract for a 30 second viewing experience. The rain interrupted and cut the day short.

Ate dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant which was by the train station. I enjoyed the meal and thought it was delicious and fair-priced.

At the hostel, I watched the finale of Lost. Disappointment.


Day 22 – Nurburing (Race track), Koln (Cologne)

From Amsterdam, we took a train to Essen and picked up our car. I got to ride in a VW Jetta or whatever.

Brian had the BMW car. I was stuck with the naked one for the entirety of the driving trip.

So, from Essen, we were supposed to drive to Nurburing, which is a race track that is apparently quite popular in the Grand Turismo games. Brian told us that we were going to get some food first. We didn’t. His aggressive driving caused us to lose track of his car. At this point, we didn’t know where our hotel/hostel is, so we had no way of meeting up with the rest of the people. All we knew was that Brian wanted to race his car. We got to Nurburing at approximately 1 pm. We waited a while to see if Brian shows up, but he never did. The naked one and I were definitely at the correct place. It was the place where we ordered our ticket to ‘race’ on the track. There was only one parkade, so we decided to just park and have a siesta (nap) while waiting for them. Three hours passed without interruption. The chance of meeting them now is incredibly low. If only we had a way to communicate with the other group.

We were ready to leave to head to Berlin, which was our next stop after staying in Koln. By chance, we stopped and turned into a parking lot. Didn’t see anything, so we were about to head out. At the last possible second before we turned, a car honked. It was Brian. We met up and spent a little time on the tracks.

When we got to Koln, we went for a mexican dinner. Om nom nom. Delicious. I had spare ribs.

Day 21 – Amsterdam Proper. Laundry Day.

Apparently none of the museums were open on Day 21 due to a public holiday. It seems like this kind of situation has been happening a lot. We’re just going to places when other places are closed. Anyway, we had to split the team up in order to plan for the rest of the trip. Team Alpha goes to do the laundry while Team Omega goes to the library, gets internet, and book hostel and tickets.
I navigated my team into success. Laundry was done. We split the teams again to try and get train tickets and other stuff. Failure. Due to the holiday, the library was closed early. We walked around as a group and bought some goods.
The naked friend decided to go ingest mushrooms all by himself. The smart shop seller said that it was absolutely amazing if he did it at the park, which was a little ways away. The rest of us went to an absolutely amazing Indian restaurant. I. Love. Butter Chicken.
Since I knew better from the previous night, I did not sample the local goods. Two other people did, and I tried my best to freak them out and to take care of them. One of the people was completely afraid. Not sure how to describe it other than in compooter terms.
Imagine that all the sensory data that a person obtains is only 10 MB/s. When you are on drugs, you can only process 8MB/s . As time goes on, you start to get data that is obtained seconds behind. The overall result is that if you focus on one thing (visuals), you can get the data in almost real time. Senses like audio or sensory feelings might come in a little bit slower. The two data streams are not necessarily synced. You also never fall behind so much. I’m guessing some sensory data just goes away.
Taste is also affected. There is definitely a delay on taste, but the flavor seems to come all at once. The first few seconds of ‘tasting’ something is pretty mild. A couple seconds later, the full force of flavor comes. If you’re still eating the thing a couple seconds later, then the taste becomes unbearable. I thought everything would taste incredibly salty. Bleh.

07 June 2010

Day 20 – To Amsterdam

We started the day late and went to the train station. One of the ideas which popped up the night before was to perhaps rent a car and then drive to Amsterdam. It would have saved us more money than having six people ride the train to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, no cars were available and we stuck with the plan. Had to make a reservation for a later train leaving Amsterdam just so we can have more time. We boarded the train at approximately two in the afternoon and arrived at about seven in the evening. There were intermittent problems with the electrical system of the Phallus train.
When we arrived at the station, I immediately went to one of the wall vending machines. Kip Burgers, I missed you. In case you don’t know, there are vending machines connected to a kitchen on the other side. You just insert coins into the slot and then open up the box on your side. The burgers or snacks found in these vending machines are usually very fresh.
I navigated our way into the hostel, which is situated on a boat to the east of Centraal.
The two drunkest people from the previous night just passed out in their bunks. The three more active people decided to scout around the city and look for things. When we came back, the sleepyheads were just stirring. Got some local delicacies. Ate some Chinese Food. The rest of the night is a blur. Pretty sure I time travelled some.

Day 19 – Extra day in Paris. I hate Trains.

This is supposed to be a free day, but we managed to waste the entire day at the Train Station. Found out late last night that we couldn’t buy the Phalus ticket to Amsterdam with a North American Credit Card. Oh, and apparently if you order the ticket before the day of the schedule, you can get it for significantly cheaper. So, the plan is to go to Amsterdam the next day instead.
Mostly chilled out. Bought a new luggage because the handle broke on the old one.

Day 18 – Eiffle Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, Arc de Triumph, Eifle Tower.

Last time I went to Paris, I wasn’t able to get to the very top of the Eiffle Tower due to bad weathering or whatever. This time, we went to it in the morning. Nice view. Neato. Day 18 was supposed to be a day full of events, but as usual, things don’t go exactly as planned. The visit to the eifle tower took longer than expected. Once again, I was plagued with a bunch of wandering black merchants who were trying to peddle some trinkets. Honestly, I think I’ve only seen like three non-black guys doing the exact same thing they’re doing. They just go to tourists with a bunch of items and try to sell it. I guess they’re the newer form of the gypsy types who give a card to English speaking tourists looking for donations. As a policy, I don’t give money to anyone.
By the time we were done the eifle tower, people were hungry. Went to a semi-fancy restaurant near Notre Dame. Medium tastiness. I bought a Crème-Boulez which was fantastic. Went inside Notre Dame for a little while and became separated with one of our people. Naturally, I don’t believe in leaving people behind, but other people don’t seem to care. We lost the person inside the Notre Dame and there were really two options. Either we continue to wait inside, or leave. In a situation like this, and assuming the person wants to be found, there’s not much choice. The lostee can either stay inside the Notre Dame or wait outside. The problem for us is that if someone goes outside, they can’t get back in without waiting for a 20 minute long line. Utlimately, I made the decision to wait inside for a dozen minutes or so before going outside. Everything went fine.
The Louvre is an extremely huge place with way too many pieces of art to appreciate. I think that a visit to the louvre shouldn’t be longer than 2 hours because the mind is simply not capable of assimilating anything more than that. It becomes a “oh look, that’s neat, lets’ go now” situation.
Had an extremely expensive meal at Champ Elyse. Wasn’t a big fan of it, but it was necessary since it is supposed to be the last night there. Wholly unremarkable. Went to the Ark and then went back to the Eifle for the light show which occurs every hour. We tried to go to the one at 9:00, but we missed it by a minute or so. Waited for the 10 o clock one. I didn’t think it was anything special. When we got back, I asked about the itinerary
Wine and drinks before bed.

06 June 2010

Day 17 – Palace of Versalles, Musée d'Orsay

In the morning we went to Versailles via the RER train system. It took a little while, but we made it. To me, the palace represents another inequality between the rich and the poor. King whoever had all of this to himself while the serfs pretty much had nothing. Went to the famous Versailles Gardens right after and was severely disappointed. Wasn’t particularly pretty or impressive except for the size of the garden itself.
I got split up with the group on the way back to the train station. Thinking that everyone is on the train already, I ended up going to see the museum D’Orsee. More art, except that this one had one of the eight Van Gogh self portraits in existence. Had Donairs for a light dinner. When the rest of the gang returned from shopping, they decided to leave me and my good friend Nelson behind. I accompanied him to a nice restaurant where he had some seafood dish while I tried out some rabbit meat. The meat was actually pretty hard to stomach. Definitely not one of my favourites

Day 16 - Ibiza, Madrid Travelling, McDonald’s Victory, Paris, Sleep

Early Flight. Earlier checkout. Still didn’t have a printed copy of the boarding pass, and it was far too early to do it in Ibiza. The first thing we got to Madrid was to get this printer situation sorted out. Asked a man about where to get it, got to the Ryanair counter and the lady printed it for free. She said something about how she wasn’t supposed to do it and that she’s doing us a favour. Or something. Great. Now there is four hours left and we’re hungry in the airport.
That’s where Team Alpha and Team Beta comes in.
One team (let’s call it Alpha) goes to get food for everyone while Team Beta looks after the Luggage. I was obviously the person to lead Team Alpha.
I’m not sure what happened to team Beta, but my team had a most excellent adventures, dudes.
Three of us went first into a parkade area which is filled with rental vehicles. I waited there to get a satellite lock on my phone. Once we had it, we followed my NOKIA N97’s location of the nearest4 McDonalds. 2.7 kilometers in a straight line. Not a problem.
Except for the two highway intersection that is blocking the path.
In some versions of the story, there were close calls to being hit by vehicles. In other versions, I was being chased by a dog. Unfortunately, the real version of the story is just about a group of three people struggling against the blistering bright sun on a quest to find and retrieve food for hungry people back at the base. I must admit that there were times when giving up seemed like the best option. We were on the wrong side of the highway, and there didn’t seem to be a pedestrian path. Another time we could see the actual centre which contained the destination, but another highway separated us from
A huge fence blocked the path leading to the other side. It took a huge kilometer long detour to finally get there… and it was the most amazing site I had seen on the trip thus far. I am talking about one of the largest indoor malls I have seen in Spain. It was three stories tall with at least 200 stores inside. Before I even stepped inside, I could feel the cool breeze from the air conditioning unit. Wonderful.
The three of us stepped inside in stunned amazement. This is Mecca. This is exactly what we were looking for and was completely worth all the trouble. We would have missed the singular most amazing thing in the day if we had bailed earlier. We had a quiet lunch and everyone celebrated with a New York Crispy burger. Basically it feels like a bigger, meatier Big Mac with bread that has bits of bacon incorporated. Stayed within the mall for another hour or so, just wandering and experiencing the success.
On the way back, we took a different route now that we have practical information about the local topography. Instead of the two hour long trip, this only took us about 45 minutes. The sun was still blazing way too hot, but we took precautionary measures with frozen icecream sticks.
When we made it back to our meeting spot, we delivered all the tasty treats to our hungry compatriots. Apparently if we arrived 15 minutes later, Team Beta would have just paid for expensive airport food, which was definitely not cool.
The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful.
Ryanair is actually pretty interesting. Because we print our own boarding passes, there isn’t any assigned seats on the flights. Neat. I thought the whole experience was pretty ‘fast food’ flight. Their seats are not movable at all, and are made of a yellowish plastic. Unfortunately, for all the work that we had to do, the whole boarding and luggage check-in process still took forever. I think it would have taken the same number of staff the same amount of time to do the luggage check in as any other airline. We arrived in Paris-Beauvais and had to take a bus back into the main city. For future references, I think flying direct to Paris Orly or Charles Du Galle would have been better.
Got to the hotel in one piece, but it was late. All the rooms were full. Even though there is only a queen and a single bed in the room, we had to cram four people inside. Nelson took the floor duty honorably, and I had to sleep with a naked man.
For dinner, we made a fine choice of going into a Chinese restaurant. Expensive. Of course, the whole of France seems really expensive. There is no longer any dollar menu at McDonald's. The cheapest burger starts at 2 Euros and pales in comparison to anything in the dollar menu in Spain.

Day 15, Ibiza Part 2, RyanAir sucks

We started out the day with a rude awakening call from one of my friends. Because we already paid for breakfast, and because the breakfast buffet is only available for a limited time, we had to go get it.
And a feast we got. Every hotel meal at Ibiza was a buffet.
Immediately afterwards, we went to rent scooter bikes to go explore the island. I was on a bike for less than 20 seconds before the renting lady noticed I was a complete failure at riding bipedal devices. I volunteered myself out of the bike group.
At night, we met up with some friends for the dinner buffet. Then, we spent the majority of the night looking for an internet connection. Our next flight from Madrid to Paris is with RyanAir, and they require everyone to print out their own boarding pass or face a 40 euro fine. With six of us travelleing, that adds up to a lot.
Unfortunately, most of the internet cafes are closed by this time. Though the hotel has a printer, they refuse to print it. Jerks.

27 May 2010

Everything is Cheaper in Prague. Lost Finale

Internet hasn't been very nice in the past week or so. Arrived in Prague about 30 minutes ago. The hostel cost is cheap. 40 Euros for a private 8 person room. There's five of us, so 8 euros per person. P neat.

I finally watched the Lost Series Finale. That's right, instead of updating my blog, I have been wasting bandwidth downloading Lost.

Going into the Finale, I knew that not everything will be answered. I also knew that the sideways universe must be set after the island timeline because sideways verse was set in 2005 while islandverse is sometime in 2007/8? People who were awakened seemed to have memories that occur after 2005. (ie, charlie died in the main timeline day ~90), but it was still like two weeks after the plane in sideways verse.

When the mythological episode hit, I realized that there wasn't going to be anything remotely close to a scientific explanation. I'm kinda ok with that.

The problem is that I wasn't really engaged in the story anymore. The finale was filled with sequences of people 'remembering' their past lives. While nice and serves as a recap of the last six years, it just happened way too much for me to care anymore. The End was really bleh for me.

18 May 2010

Day 14 – Onwards to Ibiza

Ibiza is an island resort. Beaches, parties, all that stuff. This place reminds me very much of Guam, so I’m not that excited about the place. Water has that salty taste and is definitely not potable. Everyone has to buy water from the store. Temperature is not too warm. Hovering around 19 centigrade. The beach is full of people doing beachy stuff. I find that the water is actually not very warm -certainly not warmer than Guam back in the Christmas holiday. The water also had a bunch of sediments and other floating objects. It did not look very good for swimming. The beach is not for swimming. There were tons of people sunbathing in their European uninhibited style. Good stuff.
Walking around, we were approached by a bunch of bar promoters. Basically it isn’t the prime season for tourism yet, and all the local bars are struggling to get enough people. Every bar has people standing on the streets trying to get people to go to their businesses. A lot of them actually look pretty dead.
After last night, I have decided to take a short reprieve on drinking. I had three nights in a row of bad sleep and heavy drinking and I just didn’t feel super great. Just didn’t want to continue waking up with a dehydrated hangover. So, I didn’t drink at all but still joined in on the card game.
Not sure if it was the exhausting day that everyone has had, but it didn’t look to me like they were having a lot of fun. The party ended when one of the players made a mad dash to throw up in the balcony. He almost made it to the edge, but missed. Vomit. All over the ground and partially on the balcony wall.

Day 13 – Madrid

As soon as I stepped out of the hostel, I realized that my camera/phone wasn’t charged at all. No photos. :( We walked for about 4 hours, managed to stop and get fast food twice (cheap budget!) Originally we went to a fairly large mall. It was closed. We decided to head back to a museum which was fairly large. From what we understood at the entrance, there was a timed exhibition thing going on and that it will cost 10 euros to enter. By now, most of us have seen enough art to not really care about art. We found out later that apparently museums are free on Sundays, but what do I know?
After a short break, we went to go to the largest flea market in Europe. They were just cleaning up when we got there around 5. Not cool.

It was Sunday and the places were pretty much all closed. Boo. We acquired supplies to make a decently tasty chicken curry. It was nice. This is also the last night we get to see a bunch of people, possibly forever. Even though last night was supposed to be the party night, we partied pretty hard. At 2 AM, a bunch of people left by cab to the airport.

Day 12 – Travel to Madrid.

Left at 7:30, arrived at 8:00

This is the party night. Since half of the students are going back to Vancouver on Day 14 (flight at 4am), this will be the only reasonable time to party. Passed out at the airport is not a good idea. In addition, this will be the bachelor party for one of the students getting married soon afterwards. Huzzah.

Before getting to Madrid we stopped by a mining museum slash park. I think it is a historic site or something. It was the standard museum experience except about mining. What was neat is that they had an underground part of the mine that can be visited. We walked around for a little bit. The coolest part is that in order for us to get out of the underground, we rode a (straight path) mine cart train out of the mountain into an old refinery system.

Day 11 – Rio Blanco

We had an early field trip to Rio Blanco. It is basically just another copper/zinc mine with fairly low grade of ore compared to Los Cruces. The COO of the company came to chat with us and was immensely interesting. He talked about how the company was founded and how through mergers and acquisitions became a big player in the market.

We also got the standard tour of the mine and got to see the circuits and everything. It was incredibly nice of the engineers to come and show us the stuff. It was supposed to be a local holiday and they weren’t supposed to come in.

Spent the night mostly with my main man Jerome. We went out looking for souvenirs and ended up having dinner due to overwhelming hungriness. We walked quite a bit and found this mysterious structure which did not seem to have any functional purpose. The ‘structure’ is composed of two parts which is interlinked only at the top. One side has an elevator and stairs. The other side seems to be the main building. What doesn’t make sense is that the existence of the stairs and elevator on the outside will probably negate the chance of having stairs or elevators on the main building. The stairs/elevator section is also only connected to the top. Supposedly it is a remnant from a Spanish Exposition event.

Once back at the hostel, I joined in on an existing party and blahed.

14 May 2010

Day 8,9,10

Day 8 - Free Day
Cadiz is surrounded by water on all sides. I have a picture here:


The end of the strip is where the old downtown used to be. It is now mostly a tourist attraction used to take money away from tourists with their extremely expensive meals and items. I went to see some lame cathedral and ate poorly cooked food.
Oh yeah, I bought a totally sweet ds charger. It was sweet because Nintendo didn’t opt to pay the extra 20 cents to include a voltage convertor for their default charger. This one is USB and should be fine wherever compooters are used.
After lunch, we walked back to the hotel (did I mention the hotel itself is pretty sweet, except for the whole see-through bathroom door. Had a little siesta (afternoon nap), and then headed out for dinner. Went to McDonald’s again and this time I went for the value menu again. Spent 2 euros versus the 15 euros for the stupid expensive lunch. Blah.
Walked along the beach and then I mostly went to bed (after hanging out with some cool guys.)

Day 9 – On the way to Seville.

Checked out at 9 am and headed for Seville. The ride only took about an hour and a half. This City is very organic and old. What I mean is that the streets only have enough space for two lanes max. The rest of them only have space for one lane. In addition, the roads are laid out at strange angles (not parallel and perpendicular like ours.) This is the result of having a really old town centre that just grew outwards.
While I still had clean clothes when I got to Cadiz, I was running out of clothing by today. I went to see the Cathedral at Sevilla, which was pretty neat. One of the better ones I’ve seen in Europe. I then bolted back to the hostel to put my laundry into the dry cleaning. 3 euros for each machine, which is way more reasonable than the 3 per item at the Laundromat. Went for a walk for dinner, but ended up eating cheaply at some cheap place. I’m trying to conserve money for now. I don’t really think I like the whole Spanish-seafood stuff in this part of the province. I had this mussel that had disgusting things inside that tasted like grass or some sort of plastic. Not exactly clean water. It was within the mussel, so yeah.
Didn’t go clubbing or partying, but just stayed indoors. Went to bed at 1:30 am. One of the roommates got hella pissed off because she wanted to sleep. I can understand wanting to sleep, but the thing is that she disappeared downstairs for 3 hours ‘waiting’ for people to leave the room and when she got back she was angry it wasn’t over. By that point, we’ve winded down and people were leaving. She decided to ‘get back’ at us by playing Chinese music which was stuck in a loop. I put on my earplug/phones and lol’d to sleep. Fact: If she stayed in the room, people would have left for bed earlier, like at midnight. (the next day’s activity doesn’t start until 10.) Oh yeah, the hostel fits 6 people and she was the only one who didn’t want to do anything.
Day 10 – Los Cruces

Went to Los Cruces, a place where dreams are born. The deposit at the mine is intensely rich compared to other places and as such are able to afford many luxuries. I mean, just look at their front entrance. They have enough money to make a waterfall moat. They’re also in the process of installing new palm trees. Baller.
We got the usual mine tour. Apparently the clay in the region makes it impossible for vehicles to go when it is wet, so every time it rains, they have to stop operation. They’re still making a boatload of money though. Good for them. They served us lunch and we went back to the City.
I feel like I have to reiterate that alcohol is really cheap. I’m not sure if it is the taxes or what, but on average, I have to say it is about 40% cheaper in Spain.
Another awesome thing about Spain is that all of the prices listed have tax included. That’s right! What you see is what you pay. No more bullshit dumb calculation in the head.

13 May 2010

Day 7 – Smelter, Cadiz, and Laundry

Early in the morning we left for the smelters in Huelva. Here, they take the copper concentrate, purify it, and the product is a sheet of copper 1 m by 1m and 65kg by weight. When I first entered the building, there was a huge conveyor type grappler that was moving above my head. Obviously there was more than enough clearance for safety reasons, but because of the huge scale of the object, my natural response was to duck down a little. Honestly, it felt like something from a science fiction movie.

After lunch, we left for Cadiz. By now, people in my class are desperately out of clothing and clean underwear. I understand their plight because my under wears weren’t exactly clean. Fortunately, I have many extras so I was still safe. Some of them were afraid though. We made a trek across the city to look for a laundramat, but it turns out that laundry is really expensive. I’m talking about 3 euro per item expensive. Apparently, the Spanish people aren’t really big on the whole self-serve Laundromat idea. I spent the rest of the night being dumb. Went to McDonalds and spent 3 euros on dinner. I got a Chicken Move-it, a Chicken Burger BBQ, and some onion rings. Vastly cheaper than anything else I could have eaten.

Jerks were staying in my room for way too long and I didn’t get to sleep until 3 am.

The hotel room was much, much nicer than the hostel we’ve been staying. Wide open spaces, INTERNET, great.

The problem with the room is that there’s a broken window pane. It is permanently stuck on open. Cold.

11 May 2010

Day 6: Free Day


So, apparently no Internet. I just couldn't find a hotspot. Well, day 6 is a free day with no scheduled itinerary. Played some  beach volleyball, went to the market, and had some "papajas", which is a spanish seafood rice dish. There are clams(shell included), prawns, and even a mini lobster thing. Overall, it was alright. It really wasn't anything special.

 

My feeling about this place (technically called Punta Umbra) is that the economy has hit the place hard. When walking down the streets, even downtown, there were many, many stores that were closing down and have for sale signs. The hostels have bad quality and the beach isn't really maintained. Yeah, it might be because it technically isn't the right season yet, but I can't help but feel that the best is behind this place.

Went for a bike ride around town. It costed 4 euros for half a day. While biking, Jerome and I stopped by some stores to buy some items. I swear we stopped by three stores owned by three chinese guys. Because my mandarin is better than my spanish, we just communicated in that. I got a 10% discount from one of the guys. Neat. Its just funny how I'm half an ocean away in a foreign country, and they're from half the world away in the same foreign country, and I'm speaking mandarin. Talked about where we're from and why we were here.

Coolio. Afterwards we decided to just bike around. Wasn't really afraid because I had my NOKIA N97 with the built in GPS. Apparently we biked pretty far after backtracking the path we took.

This was the first real time I biked for a long time. (10 years?) Probably totally less than 10 hours for sure. This was a challenging experience for me. Bleh.

Found a weird sandwichy place that served mini sandwiches. I didn't order any sandwiches, but I got this strange bowl of strangeness. Eggs. Potato. Sausage. Tomato sauce in the bottom. It didn't taste that great. Sourness from the tomato sauce. Saltiness from the sausage. Bleh.

Day 5: Rio Tinto District

Rio Tinto. Red River in Spanish. The river is red because of the oxidation of base metals which is naturally exposed to the environment. However mining activities throughout the ages has contributed to more exposure, making the river really red.  The pH of the water is 2.52

We got up at 7:00, which was tough considering the night before. Drudged along to the bus with a small prepared meal. One of the weird things in Europe is the lack of a concept of a breakfast. Their lunch is served late and their dinner is served even later. Bah.

We got a tour of the Project Rio Tinto mine by IMED. They bought the mine along with all of the liabilities (environmentally, the previous owners were not good.) There’s still a lot of copper that can be profitably extracted, but there are a lot of concerns regarding fixing the environment and upgrading/updating the equipment before this can occur.
 
Went to the Mining museum afterwards. Saw the history of mining in the region. Went to a model roman mine and a restored tunnel leading to an open pit that’s filled with water. You can see the red tint in the water. After lunch (from 2 to 4) we went to take a train ride along the Rio Tinto River. Went back to the hostel afterwards. I’m going to try to find Internet now. Its been a couple of days without the Internet and I’m starting to feel a little crazy. Day 6 is a free day in Huelva. We leave for another place on Day 7.
Note: No internet : ( Went for dinner right after the attempt. Got some good old Pollos (pronounced Polos :D)    
 

10 May 2010

Day 4: Huelva


Woke up at 7:47 am. Breakfast was served at the hostel at 8:30, so I just blahed around somehow.



The first place we went to was to see the boat of Christopher Columbus and his monastery. Huelva is the spot where Columbus originally set sail for America and thus there are some sights dedicated to him including a huge statue. Along the way, we saw huge industrial buildings.





 

Afterward, we went to visit the University of Huelva's other, more industry related campus. Here, we had a presentation and a short information cultural exchange. Afterward we toured the campus, had lunch, and headed back to the Hostel.

Once there, a group of us went to the beach to nap in the sun and swim. I have to say that the water here is really salty. Way saltier than the ocean water in the Pacific. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be drinking the water, but it accidentally happens sometimes. Not bueno.

We had a search party go out to find dinner. 18 of us ate a bunch of fish and the bill totaled to about 270 Euros. 15 per person. Not a bad meal. Spent the rest of the night at the beach until about 1:30 am.

Day 3 – Lisbon to Huelva bus ride.

The bus left Lisbon at 9:30 am. Took a detour trip to Sintra. Arrived at Huelva at about 6 pm.

Huelva is surrounded by beaches. It is a pretty nice place. Unfortunately, the hostel does not have any Internet, so this is all delayed.
Went to the University of Huelva for a guest meet and greet dinner. There were like 50 people just standing around the main hall. There are tables with snacks but no chairs. The idea is for people to walk around and mingle. I met some students from Germany, and a (white) instructor teaching in China.

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel. Went to the beach and had a small swim.

 

04 May 2010

Lisbon, Portugal.

I arrived in Portugal safely after a 10 hour flight to Frankfurt and a 3 hour flight to Portugal. There were many delays due to circumstances including one which involved the Icelandic Volcano erupting again.

One of the methods I use to beat jetlag is to stay awake the entire flight. I stayed up for the first flight (which landed ~3 am vancouver time), but I dozed off occasionally for the second flight ( arrived ~8 am vancouver time due to waiting for transfer).

 By the time we got to the hostel, it was around 6 pm local time. Shower was necessary because of the ickiness. Went out for din din at a restaurant about a kilometre away.

Indian Curry. Not the best, but not the worst I've had.
Beside it was a store with a lot of Hello Kitty merchandise. Too bad it was closed by the time we were done.

In the Portugal / German airport, there were these Camel Smoking Booths. It was an area where people can isolate themselves and smoke. Of course, it was ventilated.

Coming back to the hostel, there's a lot of drinking involved.

23 April 2010

Starcraft 2 Beta, Exams, Trip

Because I preordered my copy of Starcraft 2, I received a beta key for the game.This is all fine and dandy, except this is the during the Final Exam Period! Note: Final here represents the last exam period I will have. Note2: Period represents a duration of time.

Even more depressing is that the Beta will end May 16 (unless they extend it.) I will be on my European Trip from the start of May, so I won't even be spending a lot of time on SC2.

Woe is me.

25 March 2010

God of War 3

The latest game in the franchise and possibly the last one in the series with Kratos (considering the ending.)
If you have played the previous God of War games, you have pretty much played this one. The gameplay is almost exactly the same. There is still the quick time events for all the major boss fights. You essentially just hit the boss enough times until there's a button on the bosses' head. Hitting the button will lead into an epic quick time event ending in the boss' death.

 One of the main criticisms I've had for these games is that if you fail in a sequence during the quick time events, you fail completely. I would actually like to see some sort of branching path in the QTE. ( I mean, if I cut the minotaur's stomach with my blade, and then stab his back, he should still be hurting even though I missed the stab to his eyes.) You have to restart the entire sequence again. This isn't a big deal (because I rarely miss), but I think it can be improved.

God of War was never really known for the depth of its story. All three games are about a really mad bald character who is trying to kill a bad guy and will stop at nothing at achieving that goal. Though the story formula is about the same, this version lacked the drive for the player to complete the task. In God of War I, we are shown the reason why Kratos wanted to kill Ares. Ares had indirectly caused Kratos to murder his own family. In God of War 2, Zeus tricked and killed Kratos. It makes perfect sense that Kratos wanted to kill Zeus. In God of War 3, Kratos is still angry from the second game. We don't really see Zeus do anything to Kratos. I didn't really have the same

The first game introduced us to the fantastic world. It ended with Kratos killing Ares and becoming the god of war. The second brought in the concept of the Fates, which was a major part of the whole Greek Mythology. Kratos used the looms of fate to change to allow the Titans to come back into the 'present time', launching an offensive against mount olympus. The third game doesn't really introduce any concepts we haven't seen before. We get to see the Labyrinth, which was pretty well designed, but it doesn't have the impact of the things from the other games. The end of the game was completely lackluster. Kratos gets his vengeance, and then nothing. We get no satisfying conclusion. It felt empty, just like Kratos after his revenge.

I love that when each god dies, their associated 'domain' gets messed up. When Poseidon died, the ocean flooded to the mountain. When Helios died, the sun went away. It was great to see the world transform with each god that dies.  I expected Kratos to destroy the entire Olympian god structure at the end of the game. There would be no titans or gods left to control the elements, and there would be no need anymore. The world would be able to exist without any gods. Essentially, I wanted the God of War world to transform into one like our own.

After the climactic battle of the game, there was a long cutscene between the ghost of Athena and Kratos. Athena wanted Kratos to give her whatever was inside Pandora's Box. Kratos insists that the box was already empty when he got there. It turns out that when all the evils of the box was released in the end of GoW1, they flew into all of the gods of olympia, turning them into paranoid assholes. Hope (which was the power to destroy the gods) got inside Kratos, but he couldn't use it because of all his anger. At the end, Kratos worked out his anger issues by forgiving himself and was able to kill Zeus.

The game was pretty good up to this point, but then they had to add in this hope bullshit into the story. There was a minute of dialogue from Athena explaining that the power of HOPE was inside Kratos all along! Hope beats everything because hope is powerful!

This ending felt like a non ending. Instead of giving Athena the power, Kratos ends his own life and 'hope' was dispersed into the world. Kratos lies down on the ground, bleeding to death. After the credits, there's a trail of blood leading to a cliff. The end.

Summary: I like this game. It just didn't live up to the hype. :(
 Could have used a bigger character transformation for Kratos since this is his last game.